ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar on Friday said the government was pursuing with various courts to get vacated stay orders mainly obtained by sugar barons during the past 11 years, but added that it was not a fault of courts.
Addressing a press conference, Mr Akbar also talked about the violation of laws and fleecing of customers by flour mills and actions taken by the government to counter market manipulations by the mill owners. He recalled that a fine of over Rs20 billion had been imposed by the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) on sugar mills after the 2007-09 sugar crisis, but the mills as well as the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association had not paid the amount even after the passage of 10 years.
“Over 100 stay orders regarding sugar mills were still pending before different courts for the last 11 years. I am a lawyer and I can say that stay orders cannot continue for such a long period if the lawyers of other side do their job properly as it is not a fault of courts,” he added.
Says actions under way to counter market manipulation by flour mills
The PM’s aide said the present government had made the sugar inquiry commission’s report public for the first time in the country’s history and the success of this government was that the tactics used by the sugar mills against the CCP’s order had been foiled.
“Islamabad High Court vacated the stay order obtained by the sugar mills’ association after vigorous persuasion by the government. Later, the Sindh chapter of sugar mills’ association approached the Sindh High Court as they did against the CCP order and the government approached the Supreme Court to get that stay order vacated,” he added.
Mr Akbar said the apex court had also directed the high courts to decide all such cases in three weeks. He said that apart from fighting the strong and powerful groups in courts, the federal cabinet had approved a strategy, including a road map of taking punitive action, introducing reforms and rationalising the price of sugar.
He said a committee, headed by Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar, had been constituted to finalise reforms in the sugar industry and rationalise the price of sugar. The committee has started negotiations with the sugar mills’ association in this regard.
The provincial governments, CCP, State Bank of Pakistan, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan have been directed to investigate violations by the sugar mills in accordance with their rules and submit reports within 90 days.
Mr Akbar said a reference had been sent to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to investigate misappropriation of subsidies given to the sugar mills. While the CCP has been tasked with probing the cases of cartelisation by the sugar mills over the past 10 years, the State Bank would investigate sugar mills’ wilful loan defaults. The FIA will probe alleged fake export of sugar to Afghanistan.
The provincial governments have been asked to investigate violations by the sugar mills, including less payment of sugarcane price to farmers.
The PM’s assistant also spoke about market manipulation and business misappropriations by the flour mills and said that around Rs254 million had been embezzled through the 2018 Ramazan package by 149 flour mills which were provided wheat at subsidised rates.
He said that out of Rs254m, around Rs190m had already been recovered by the anti-corruption department of Punjab and deposited into the national exchequer, while action was being taken against 156 officials of the provincial food departments. He said the Punjab anti-corruption department had started criminal proceedings against 70 officials of the food department, who were directly involved in misappropriation of wheat subsidy.
Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2020